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Laconia schools awarded $2.2M grant to target wide array of behavioral goals

LACONIA — The school district has been awarded a collaborative community federal grant that will bring about $2.2-million to the city schools to promote positive behavioral education over the next four years.

Superintendent Terri Forsten said Laconia teamed with Rochester and Concord to apply for the N.H. Safe Schools, Healthy Student State Program, N.H. Communities for Children grant and have been working on it for a number of months.

"This is going to make a difference," she told the School Board at its regular meeting last night.

The purpose of the four-year grant in Laconia is to provide support for the district's ongoing work in the areas of early childhood and court liaison programs as well as supporting student assistance programs, behavior models, and a health and wellness academy, said Forsten.

Laconia's primary agency support came from Genesis Behavioral Health — the regional mental health agency — and Forsten said she worked closely with Lisa Morris who is the executive director of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, which partners with others to provide expertise, information, and tools to protect people's health.

Forsten said the district identified six goals for the four-year grant, including creating and sustaining a state-level collaborative cross-agency structure for sharing data and evidenced-based results and improving the social and emotional skills and preparedness for the educational success of children from birth to age 5.

She also said the grant will be used for improving the mental and behavioral health of children to reduce school violence, bullying, substance abuse, and other disciplinary problem by targeting the children with the highest needs.

Engaging families is key to the success of the program said Forsten and the program will also work to reduce risk factors such as alcoholism and drug use within families of school-aged children.

Board member Scott Vachon said he wanted to make sure the coordinator's position that will be created with grant funds will be one that doesn't supplant any existing programs or personnel within the district.

"I hope it comes with that stipulation," he said, making of point of saying that the $550,000 annually is not to be considered as part of the annual school budget.

Forsten assured the board that the grant would also be used to only develop and implement the program to continue beyond the four-year term of the grant.

"We have a great window of four years and we'll use the money to look at resources to continue," Forsten said.

Board member Mike Persson said he already sees a great deal of "cross-agency" work in the city and he is excited that the grant will bring more opportunities for that type of coordination.

"I hope you bring all the agencies in, like the United Way, to use and develop the program over the four years," he said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 02:10

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Alton School Board's 'rejection' of Common Core has no consequence at this point; curriculum 'will not be undone'

ALTON — After a lengthy discussion at its August meeting, the Alton School Board voted three to two not to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative, but it appears that the vote will have no immediate consequences.

School Superintendent William Lander said this week that prior to his appointment, administrators and teachers invested significant time in realigning Alton's curriculum in anticipation of the introduction of the CCSS. "We are teaching the curriculum we've adopted that was approved by the School Board," he said, "and that will not be undone."

The CCSS, sponsored by the United States Department of Education and a consortium of states, have been adopted by 45 states, including by the New Hampshire State Board of Education in 2010. The program sets standards for measuring mastery of English language arts/literacy and mathematics at each grade level that by stressing problem solving and critical thinking are designed to ensure that high school graduates are prepared to enroll in college or enter the workforce.

Beginning in the spring of 2015, the state will replace the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), the test administered to elementary and secondary school students since 2005, with Smarter Balanced, an assessment developed by a consortium of states that is aligned with CCSS.

When the School Board discussed the CCSS in August, State Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) urged the board to reject it, claiming that because the federal government set the standards, which in turn would shape the curriculum, the program would erode local control of the schools. Likewise, Doris Hohensee of Families in Education, a group founded in 2010 to advocate for greater parental control of education, told the board that the CCSS was developed and adopted without the participation of parents or approval of the Legislature. Local and parental control would be lost, she warned, if the CCSS were adopted.

When the issue reached the board again last month, the majority — Terri Noyes, Krista Argiropolis and Carlos Martinez — expressed concern about the intrusion of the federal government and the threat to local control while Sandy Wyatt, who chairs the board, and Steve Miller favored a program they believed would raise standards. 

Heather Gage, director of instruction at the New Hampshire Department of Education, said yesterday that local school boards are not required to adopt the CCSS and there are no financial consequences of refusing to do so. However, school districts are required by state and federal law to administer the assessment prescribed by the state or seek waivers from the state and federal governments to administer a different test.

Gage explained that although federal funding is not contingent on a particular assessment, any alternative must be consistent with the assessment administered by the state. If it is not, she said that federal funding to support the education of low-income students, distributed under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act, would be at risk.

In withholding its endorsement of the CCSS, the Alton School Board has yet to raise the prospect of refusing to administer the Smarter Balanced assessment in 2015.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 01:54

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Merrifield seeking 4th term as Franklin votes today

FRANKLIN — Voters in this city will go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a mayor and some members of city council, as well as four members of the School Board. Voting hours in all three wards will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ward One voters will cast ballots at Thompson Hall (47 Main Street). Ward Two voters will vote at City Hall (316 Central Street). And Ward 3 voters will gravitate to the Middle School (200 Sanborn Street).

Mayor Ken Merrifield is seeking a fourth term and there are no other names on the ballot for that position. Glenn Morrill, however, is conducting an aggressive, last-minute write-in campaign for votes.

All four city councilors that are up for election this year are running for re-election, but only Paul C. Trudel (Ward Three) has opposition — from Steve Barton. Councilor Arthur "Ted" Starkweather (Ward One), Councilor Tony Giunta (Ward One) and Councilor Douglas A. Boyd are unopposed.

Four seats on the School Board are up for election and while there are, officially, no contested races, at least two write-in campaigns have been mounted.

Incumbents Charles "Chad" Carey (Ward One) and Timothy M. Dow (Ward Three) are unopposed.

Former High School football coach Gregory Husband (Ward One) is alone on the ballot but Gwen Hall is seeking write-in votes for that seat.

Likewise, Angie Carey (Ward Two) is the only name on the ballot but Carol Edmunds is asking for write-in votes.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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After fire, Pitman's Freight Room hopes to be open again in few weeks

LACONIA — The owner of Pitman's Freight Room said yesterday that he expects the live music venue to reopen after Sunday morning's fire within a matter of weeks.

Richard "Dick" Mitchell said the fire that is still under investigation could have been a lot worse.

"It would have killed me," Mitchell said. "We put so much into it."

Mitchell said he was told the fire started around 2 a.m. Saturday in the back side of the building, on what used to be a freight loading dock. He said the Laconia Fire Department was returning to the station from extinguishing a suspicious dumpster fire near Hector's Restaurant when Pitman's fire alarm sounded nearby.

He said firefighters were there within one minute and were able to quickly extinguish the blaze. He said a portion of the back wall will need to be rebuilt and there is smoke damage throughout the building.

"It's a miracle that the fire department was so close," he said.

Pitman's, on New Salem Street, is a function hall and live entertainment venue that features live blues and soul music, comedy shows and other events.

According to their Webite, in 1988 Mitchell and his wife Connie bought the former freight station that was built in 1890 by Pitman's Manufacturing — one of the largest hosiery manufactures in New Hampshire in the 1800s.

The first stage of renovations saw the opening of an antique store in one end of the store. The live entertainment portion of the renovation started in 2009 after the Mitchell's renovated the remaining portion of the building, and installed heating, air conditioning, a third bathroom and a 5-sided hickory dance floor.

Pitman's averages one to four shows weekly and is a BYOB venue.

Mitchell said he can't thank the Laconia Fire Department enough for responding so quickly.

"These guys are wonderful," he said.

He said he also wanted to thank his many friends and his manager for the work they did on Sunday re-securing the building and being there when the insurance company came.

CAPTION – ( Pitman Freight Room) Charred insulation and board lies outside the back dock of Pitman's Freight Room. A suspicious fire caused about $20,000 in damage to the building early Saturday morning. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 04:01

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